On Wednesday I stepped through the doors of a hematologist in my area, expecting to have a brief appointment where he’d review my lab results from a recent battery of blood tests and casually respond that there was no reason for me to be sitting in front of him. A couple of weeks back, I wrote about how I was finally going to stop using my kids (and hectic life as a mom) as an excuse for not taking care of myself. And so I had made an appointment with a local Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor to try to find out why I had been getting recurrent strep throat. She ordered some blood tests, and when I got a call from her a week later, she indicated that some tests came back abnormal, but she didn’t seem too alarmed. In fact, when she referred me to see a hematologist to go over the results, she said I didn’t even need to worry about making an appointment for a month or two. So you could see how I would believe that my test results and need to see a hematologist was maybe just the result of an overly-cautious and caring doctor.
But that wasn’t the case. After reviewing my case file, asking me several questions, and examining my symptoms, he decided that we needed to get a full blood work-up completed, which included 13 blood tests and a urine test. Both extremes were discussed during our 20-minute appointment, and while he said that my low blood platelets and low white blood cell count was likely a result of a viral infection like mono or some thyroid dysfunction, he also mentioned leukemia, to which he quickly followed with, “But I’m sure it’s not that serious.”
At that point, I just about lost it. In fact, a few tears did escape, which I quickly brushed away. But in reality, you don’t hear the words leukemia after walking down a doctor’s hallway and passing by a dozen patients in the process of receiving chemotherapy and simply brush it off. That sort of conversation and environment rattles even the most calm, cool, and collected of souls. And while the odds are slim, still every three minutes one person in America is diagnosed with a blood cancer.
So now we wait. I went in for my follow-up blood work yesterday, where they took six tubes of blood, and I go in for the results two weeks from now. I’m also booked to meet with an endocrinologist to see about the possible thyroid dysfunction. In the mean time, we’re set to go on an eight-day vacation, a first for us as a family, in between waiting and thinking. I’d be lying if I said the events of the last couple of days haven’t got the better of me, and I can feel it physically zapping my energy. The high I experienced post-detox has suddenly crashed, and the past couple of days I’ve been anything but productive and have had a tough time sleeping.
I’m committed to not letting the waiting game and fear of the unknown continue to get me down though, especially during our vacation. So in the hopes of keeping my spirits high and managing the stress and anxiety of the unknown, I’m going to practice a few habits to help me get through the next two weeks. While everyone’s situation is different, I hope that these habits will help you manage your stress levels as well, whatever your unique situation may be.
1. Get your endorphins going
I sat in front of my computer for two hours after my doctor’s appointment on Wednesday. I had deadlines to meet and words to get written, but I just couldn’t. My husband texted me to ask how I was holding up, and I replied, “Can’t think. Screw this, I’m going to yoga.” Of course we can’t blow off work and all our commitments during stressful times, but it is OK, and pretty crucial to our sanity, to take breaks every now and then and get those good exercise endorphins going. After yoga, I felt 10 times better, but to ensure stress levels were kept at bay for the rest of the day, I followed up yoga with a mani/pedi. Then I went home and talked it all out with my husband, but it was good to have a couple of hours to not focus on the unknown.
2. Pray and/or meditate
Whether you’re religious or not, spending some quiet time with yourself to pray or meditate does wonders for your mental well-being. Mediation and prayer can help reduce anxiety by reducing negative emotions, focusing on the present, and giving you tools to help handle stressful situations.
3. Call on loved ones and friends for support
As soon as I left my appointment, I called my husband, and when I couldn’t reach him, I called my mom. Not to worry them, but so they would help me not worry. I am prone to worry, and while I don’t necessarily over-react, I often stew in my own thoughts, causing me to lose sleep and get lost in a negative mental loop. My mom helped talk me down, and then after I spoke to her, I texted a good friend who knew what was going on. While some prefer to suffer in silence, I am a firm believe that friends and family are there to uplift us and be there for us during good times and bad. So while we wait, I’ll be sure to lean on them when I’m feeling down, and I sure hope they’d let let me do the same for them.
4. Say “no”
During particularly stressful situations, it doesn’t do any good to load on more responsibility to your plate. While positive distractions are good, menacing busy work will just add more stress and frustration to the situation, so I’ll be saying no to the extras for the next couple of weeks.
5. Let things go and take shortcuts
I’ve shrugged off my cooking responsibilities the last two nights for take-out instead, and being able to look forward to a cook-free and dishes-free night for two days in a row was a great way to recharge my battery. Tonight, our pocket book is telling me it’s time to get back into the kitchen, but it was nice to have a little break after the initial shock of the doctor’s appointment. Little things that you can let go of, like super clean kitchen floors and folding laundry are great ways to recharge. Sure, the laundry and dirty floors will still be there after your break, but it’s good to at least have a small amount of time to chill out and just relax a bit.More On